Gremlins – music by Jerry Goldsmith

GremlinsHorror and comedy are two film genres that many have tried to mix, but few have managed to meld successfully. Part of the problem is that horror films tend to fall into one of two categories: so overbaked as to be almost unintentionally funny, or so repulsive as to strip even the slightest opportunity for humor out of the proceedings. If you try to add “widespread popular appeal” to the mix, you’re begging for trouble, because that all but violates the Prime Directive of making a horror flick. One of the very few movies to have landed right in the middle of that improbable Venn diagram was 1984’s Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg. Gremlins manages to be funny – and even endearingly sweet – and scary all at the same time. And as for popular appeal, the last time my son and I ventured through the toy aisle, we spotted freshly-minted, newly-produced Gremlins figures on the store shelves. Not bad for a movie that’s nearly 30 years old, even if I did have to explain that the movie that they’re from is too rich for his blood since he’s only 4 years old.

Helping to sweeten the movie’s cute moments and lend bite to the scarier scenes was an outstanding Jerry Goldsmith score. Always experimenting with unconventional instrumentation and electronics, Goldsmith was firmly into a phase of adding off-the-shelf synthesizers to the usual orchestral palette. Early samplers were also in play here, adding strange howling-cat noises and an almost-funny “Gremlin chorus” to numerous scenes where appropriate. Film Score Monthly’s 2-disc set corrects one of the longest-standing gaps in commercially-available film music by presenting the full score, alongside the remastered-for-CD “mini-album” released in 1984 which was previously the only way to hear any of the movie’s score. (As it turns out, even the barely-adequate mini-album has its charms, of which more in a moment.)

Goldsmith’s music for Gizmo, the adorable Mogwai who was the movie’s most marketable image, reinforces the adorable part,

Of course, once Gizmo’s kids have their fateful post-midnight snack, Goldsmith gets into more, well, Goldsmithian material. The first strains of the “Gremlins Rag” – heard in full in the movie’s end Gremlinscredits – are heard in an off-kilter, almost toy-piano style as Billy’s mother gets her first look at the grotesquely mutated pods. Once these hatch, all hell breaks loose and Goldsmith upends his entire toybox on us, frequently using the unearthly cat-howl sample mentioned earlier. That occurs through several vignettes early in the Gremlins’ spree of mischief, but once that becomes an all-out reign of terror that threatens to raze the entire town to the ground, the music officially goes balls-to-the-wall. “Too Many Gremlins” would be an epic orchestral music cue for any horror movie, but it helps to sell the Gremlins as a serious threat here (don’t forget, the movie was made in 1984, and its effects were limited to the state of the art of puppetry and animatronics in 1984 – the music had a lot of work to do in making the Gremlins a credible hazard). (That being said, I’m glad that Gremlins has been neither remade nor – shudder – CGI “enhanced” in the years since it was made.)

The second disc will either be a jolt of harmless ’80s nostalgia, or a collection-completer. It’s hard to trawl through theLogBook.com’s music reviews without picking up on me being a Peter Gabriel fan, and the inclusion of “Out Out” may just be that song’s first official appearance on CD, and it’s a notoriously hard-to-find piece from Gabriel’s early career, not having appeared on any of his albums to date, right in the middle of the four-year gap between Security and So. For that alone, this is one “contractually obligated re-release of the original album” (a bugbear of these classic soundtrack remasters) I’ll let them skate by with.

4 out of 4It’s amazing that so much of one of Jerry Goldsmith’s most memorable scores had to wait this long for an official release, but the sound quality and the abundance of previously unreleased material make Gremlins worth the wait.

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    Disc One: The Film Score

  1. Fanfare in C / The Shop / The Little One (4:30)
  2. Late for Work (1:46)
  3. Mrs. Deagle / That Dog (2:22)
  4. The Gift (1:45)
  5. First Aid (2:17)
  6. Spilt Water (3:02)
  7. A New One (1:10)
  8. The Lab / Old Times (2:35)
  9. The Injection (2:56)
  10. Snack Time / The Wrong Time (1:49)
  11. The Box (1:24)
  12. First Aid (1:39)
  13. Disconnected / Hurry Home (1:03)
  14. Kitchen Fight (4:06)
  15. Dirty Linen (0:43)
  16. The Pool (1:07)
  17. The Plow / Special Delivery (1:16)
  18. High Flyer (2:22)
  19. Too Many Gremlins (2:06)
  20. No Santa Claus (3:27)
  21. After Theatre (1:39)
  22. Theatre Escape / Stripe Is Loose / Toy Dept. / No Gizmo (4:36)
  23. The Fountain / Stripe’s Death (5:42)
  24. Goodbye, Billy (2:56)
  25. End Title / The Gremlin Rag (4:10)

    Bonus Tracks

  26. Blues (2:17)
  27. Mrs. Deagle film version (1:27)
  28. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (1:12)
  29. After Theatre (With “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  30. After Theatre (Without “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  31. Rabbit Rampage composed by Milt Franklyn (0:47)
  32. The Gremlin Rag full version (3:35)
  33. Gizmo’s New Song (0:35)
  34. Gizmo’s Trumpet (0:30)
    Disc Two: 1984 Soundtrack Album

  1. Gremlins…Mega Madness performed by Michael Sembello (3:52)
  2. Make It Shine performed by Quarterflash (4:11)
  3. Out Out performed by Peter Gabriel (7:02)
  4. The Gift (4:58)
  5. Gizmo (4:14)
  6. Mrs. Deagle (2:54)
  7. The Gremlin Rag (4:13)

Released by: Film Score Monthly / Retrograde Records
Release date: 2011
Disc one total running time: 76:01
Disc two total running time: 31:25

Cloak & Dagger – music by Brian May

Cloak & Dagger - music by Brian MayThe early ’80s saw a spate of video-game-oriented films, trying to cash in on the public’s seemingly unstoppable infatuation with that new entertainment medium. Cloak & Dagger, starring Henry Thomas (still a fixture in the public eye thanks to his then-recent appearance in E.T.) and Dabney Coleman (the king of early ’80s video game / computer flicks, having already appeared in WarGames, was easily the most kid-oriented of the first wave of video game movies.

For some reason, my memory had cheated a little bit in recalling this movie’s music. I hadn’t actually seen Cloak & Dagger since just a few years after its release, and for some reason I had it in my head that the soundtrack was somewhat similar to the music from WarGames, which was constantly on-edge and, thanks to some synth work, hip to the audience’s expectations from a movie featuring computers as a key plot point. In fact, Cloak & Dagger – getting its first soundtrack release thanks to Intrada – is nothing like that. For a supposedly tech-oriented movie, it’s startling just how old-school the soundtrack is.

Scored by the late Australian composer Brian May (not Queen’s lead guitarist, who’s still alive and dividing his time between astronomy and being the world’s best axe man), Cloak & Dagger‘s old-fashioned, strictly-orchestral scoring is almost out of place: it skews a lot older than the rest of the movie. Even the way the music was arranged, and the way the recording sessions were miked and mixed, makes the music sound older than the 1980s – in a strange way, it sounds like a recording from the ’60s or early ’70s, and not like the music from a kiddie techno-thriller at all. It’s nice music, but just seems strangely unhip next to the images it accompanies.

The action sequences fare better than the more contemplative moments. Coleman’s swaggering hero Jack Flack gets a nice signature theme, which gets turned around into a nice reveal toward the end of the movie when Thomas’ character realizes that it’s not military superhero/action figure Jack Flack, but his father (also played by Coleman), who has come to his rescue.

Cloak & Dagger could probably have done with a punchier, “younger” soundtrack, and it’s a great example of how misremembered a piece of movie history can be. As always, Intrada packs the accompanying CD booklet with a wealth of information about the movie (including something I’d missed: the plot of Cloak & Dagger is so close to Hitchcock’s Rear Window that the writer of the short story upon which Rear Window was based actually gets a story credit for Cloak & 2 out of 4Dagger). Aside from a mostly-forgotten arcade game by Atari (whose attempt at a movie product placement for an upcoming Atari 5200 Cloak & Dagger game – represented here by footage of the arcade game – turned out to be a product placement for vaporware), this may be the only other merchandise Cloak & Dagger has ever inspired. It’s a decent soundtrack… for the wrong movie.

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  1. Jack Flack Arrives (0:59)
  2. The Tower Of Life (3:33)
  3. Help, Police!… Murder (4:13)
  4. Return From The Mission (5:32)
  5. I Guess We’re On Our Own (1:38)
  6. Davey Gets Away (1:20)
  7. Run, Davey, Run (3:34)
  8. Nightmare Drive (5:05)
  9. Parking Lot Chase (3:56)
  10. We Gotta Save Kim! (1:06)
  11. Back To The River (2:01)
  12. Run Like The Wind (1:55)
  13. The Cross Fire Gambit (4:42)
  14. I Don’t Wanna Play (1:10)
  15. The End Of Childhood (2:21)
  16. Airport Prelude (1:28)
  17. Davey A Hostage! (1:22)
  18. Captain Jack Flack (6:49)
  19. Cloak & Dagger (End Credits) (3:49)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 57:13

Krull

KrullAnnounced just prior to (and available at) the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, this long-overdue remastered (and, this time, officially-licensed and above-board) edition of the Krull soundtrack is practically custom-made for Comic Con – it’s such an obscure, cult-following niche item that only a Comic Con attendee or Krull‘s own mother could love it.

As hard as I ride the familiar horse that virtually everything James Horner composed in the 80s had the DNA of his score for Star Trek II in it, Krull at last pushes the familiar chords and progressions into a more fantastical, sword-and-sorcery realm. The movie itself was one of numerous cinematic attempts to marry SF and swashbuckling fantasy in the wake of Star Wars, though Krull made the mashup more literal than most, with more traditional feudal elements jostling for screen time with sci-fi concepts. Despite a merchandising blitz, it wound up with a cult audience and little more.

And up until La-La Land’s nicely cleaned-up 2010 two-disc soundtrack release, that cult audience had to make do with the (now insanely rare and expensive) pressing of the Krull score from the defunct Supertracks label. Supertracks was a ’90s outfit, also known for having turned out the only CD release of the music from the Paul McGann Doctor Who movie, that operated on a slightly shady basis: composers needed promotional copies of their work could get them pressed by Supertracks, but in exchange, they would quietly look the other way while Supertracks also sold copies of the same albums to soundtrack collectors. Though frequently sporting fine cover artwork and booklets, Supertracks’ releases were seldom, if ever, officially licensed. Supertracks suddenly disappeared early in the 2000s, and one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to connect the dots. Krull – and everything else produced by Supertracks – went out of print overnight and became collectors’ items.

La-La Land snatched up the rights to an official Krull soundtrack, fortuitously timed to both Comic Con and the DVD and Blu Ray release of Krull. The track list is largely the same as the Supertracks edition, but it sounds much better – the 4 out of 4difference in sonic quality is considerable. There’s also a specially-edited “Theme From Krull” suite assembled by the album producers from portions of the opening and credits.

Though this edition is also, as far as the label is concerned, sold out of its edition of 3000 copies, but let’s look on the sunny side: there are 3,000 fresh copies out there with better sound quality than the old release that was all but a bootleg. Krull‘s worth revisiting, and this time you just might be able to afford it.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title And Colwyn’s Arrival (7:34)
  2. The Slayers Attack (9:18)
  3. Quest For The Glaive (7:23)
  4. Ride To The Waterfall (0:53)
  5. Lyssa In The Fortress (1:28)
  6. The Walk To The Seer’s Cave (4:10)
  7. The Seer’s Vision (2:18)
  8. The Battle In The Swamp (2:39)
  9. Quicksand (3:38)
  10. The Changeling (4:04)
  11. Leaving The Swamp (1:58)
    Disc Two

  1. Vella (3:46)
  2. The Widow’s Web (6:18)
  3. The Widow’s Lullaby (5:01)
  4. Ynyr’s Death (1:41)
  5. Ride Of The Firemares (5:22)
  6. Battle On The Parapets (2:53)
  7. Inside The Black Fortress (6:13)
  8. The Death Of The Beast And The Destruction Of The Black Fortress (8:31)
  9. Epilogue And End Title (4:52)
  10. Colwyn And Lyssa Love Theme (2:35)
  11. The Walk To The Seer’s Cave – album edit (2:16)
  12. Theme From Krull (4:48)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2010
Disc one total running time: 45:23
Disc two total running time: 54:16